lemon press

When I was five or six years old, I had a Snoopy Sno-Cone machine. My mom only let me use it when she had time to supervise me, so it was always a treat. It’s actually funny to grwon-up me that as a child, I thought of working my tiny little biceps pushing down on the red roof to decimate ice cubes was a treat. Of course, now you can buy a refrigerator/freezer that will give you cubed, crushed, or shaved ice with just the push of a button. As an adult, I appreciate being able to have something like shaved ice without all the extra work, but I’ll always have a little place in my heart for the nostalgic workout that using a Snoopy Sno-Cone machine gives. On the rare occasion that I have Italian ice (or Hawaiian shave ice, which irks me for its incorrect grammar), I remember how much I loved my Snoopy Sno-Cones and wonder what I loved more: the sugary syrup or the fact that my own little hands helped create my cold treat.

I can’t say the same for the awesomeosity of using a lemon press. I will never miss squeezing the crap out of a lemon with my tiny weak hands! A few months ago, I started making honey lemon tea every night in an attempt to ward off the insane amounts of flu that seemed to afflict everyone. I tend to go a little overboard, so although I found recipes online that said to use anywhere from one teaspoon to two tablespoons of lemon juice, I decided to just use two whole lemons. More is always better, right? That’s the American way! I got the lemon juice out the hard way – by squeezing them like crazy with my hands. I know this will probably sound ridiculous, but after squeezing four lemon halves, I was worn out. But I persisted and kept up my squeezing routine every single night in the name of good health. Just listening to everyone coughing was enough to convince me that a little bit of lemon squeezing was worth the effort. Get thee back, flu!

I am a huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen. They are the polar opposite of almost every show on the Food Network. Do not get me started on Rachael Ray and her “avocado smash.” Ugh. We gave up our regular cable a few years ago, so we no longer get any of the basic cable channels like MTV, VH1, TLC, HGTV, FX, TNT, TBS, or any of the other acronyms. I really miss the Travel Channel (especially Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe) and Alton Brown, but I do not miss Rachael Ray’s yelling, gesticulating, constantly explaining EVOO (which defeats the entire purpose of using an acronym), dorky laughing, or repeated stories about Grandpa Emmanuel and how she doesn’t bake and always burns toast.

America’s Test Kitchen is the antithesis of the Food Network. Instead of casting “personalities” and worrying about turning every person into a brand, America’s Test Kitchen focuses on FOOD. Crazy concept, I know! They compare kitchen equipment and ingredients by testing them, whether it’s putting a spatula in a cast iron skillet with a thermometer to see at what temperature the spatula starts to melt or tasting all the premium vanilla ice cream brands available at supermarkets. They don’t just endorse whatever company sent them a bunch of free samples (unlike most magazines and blogs). They do what I do: they go to the store, buy items, and then try them out.

When Mr. Awesome and I were trying to come up with things to put on our wedding registry, I went through all of our back issues of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country (the two magazines, both completely ad-free, published by America’s Test Kitchen) and combed through all of their equipment ratings and made a list of all the pots and pans, knives, and other kitchen essentials they recommended. Imagine how I felt when the issue that arrived two weeks after our wedding included a compilation of all their must-have kitchen items, which was pretty much what I spent an entire weekend putting together. Great minds think alike and all, but it would have been a lot greater if they had decided to put together that list six months earlier!

When the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen test recipes, they don’t just slap something together, taste it once, pronounce it “good enough,” and then post it on their website. They test each recipe thirty to forty times, but sometimes as many as seventy times. They tinker with the ingredients to see how they can make the recipe better or sometimes faster (although they never go the Sandra Lee “dump and stir” route). They explain the science behind what they do (although not to the extent that Alton Brown does) so that viewers can understand the difference between heating onions in oil versus water. They aren’t just handing out recipes – they are educating their viewers. I love their methodical approach to cooking, and I appreciate that they test all this stuff out so that I don’t have to do it myself.

One item that I have seen them use on the show several times is a lemon squeezer. It’s not an electric juicer, just a simple hinged piece of equipment that extracts every bit of juice from a lemon. Thanks to the physics of a fulcrum, it’s very easy to use and requires very little effort or strength, so it’s perfect for my wimpy little wrists!

Normally I read the directions for anything before I use it. Mr. Awesome and his brother think it’s hilarious that I insist on reading instruction booklets because their method is the exact opposite: do as much as you can by pressing buttons and then if you can’t figure it out, see if there is a picture in the instructions that shows what you are doing wrong. But who’s laughing when I know how to change the dashboard clock in someone else’s car after daylight savings time? Well, both of us actually. I’m laughing since I learned how to do it by reading the instructions. Mr. Awesome’s brother is laughing because he got the clock in his car updated to the correct time without having to read the owner’s manual.

I do, however, make exceptions about reading the instructions for very simple things that seem to require no explanation whatsoever (and it drives me crazy when I see self-explanatory things like “coffee is hot” as it seems like a waste of time, ink, and lord knows what other resources). That doesn’t always work out in my favor, as I learned with my old gel insoles.

How hard can it be to use a lemon squeezer? You put in a lemon half and squeeze. The end. Well, yes and no. The only important thing you need to know is which way to put the lemon into the squeezer. I, very logically, assumed that the lemon fit into the cup this way.

WRONG! Because the cut side is up, when you squeeze the handles together, the juice wants to run out of the top of the squeezer and down the sides of the squeezer. I was a little grossed out that the lemon juice would run inside the cup and hence all over the outside skin of the lemon, so I always made sure to rinse my lemons and wipe them with a towel to get rid of any dirt of bug cooties that might be lingering since I didn’t want to drink any of that stuff. After using my lemon squeezer this way for a few days (and make no mistake – you CAN use it this way but there is a better way), I finally looked at the little cardboard tag that had been attached (it was sitting on my kitchen counter, just in case I decided to return it). “Insert lemon cut side down.” Really? Really. It should look like this.

So smart! This way, the juice runs straight down through the little holes without touching the outside skin of the lemon. Much more sanitary! And way less juice spilling out over the sides! The lemon is squeezed and turned inside out so it looks like this when you’re done.

Almost every bit of lemon juice is squeezed out by this inside out action so there is no waste. There are small holes in the bottom of the squeezer. A few small seeds might get through, but I just fish them out with a spoon. If you’re really concerned about seeds, you can always squeeze the juice through a strainer.

These squeezers come in three sizes and are color coordinated. The largest one is orange and is used for squeezing, duh, oranges. The medium one is yellow and is used for lemons. The small ones is green and is used for limes. If you try to use the wrong size, you will not get maximum juice squeezage out of your fruit. If the squeezer is too big/the fruit is too small, the press can’t squish the fruit enough to get out all the juice. If the squeezer is too small/the fruit is too big, the press can only squeeze so much because the fruit won’t fit inside the cup.

The squeezers range in price from $8-$40 depending on what they’re made of and where you buy them. Don’t bother with the plastic ones because they will break. I think the stainless steel ones are a bit on the pricey side for what they do, but they are good quality. The middle ground is enamaled. I’ve read some reviews online that said the enamel chipped off, but I’ve been using mine regularly for almost six months and I haven’t seen any chips.

You might have noticed that my squeezer is yellow and green. That’s because I bought the combo lemon/lime squeezer. The smaller green cup is meant to squeeze limes, but I found that it works really well for Meyer lemons, which are smaller than regular lemons. I use the larger yellow cup when I can’t find any Meyer lemons and have to buy regular lemons. The green segment flips back and forth so you can easily switch from the lemon squeezer to the lime squeezer. If you have an enamaled squeezer as I do, you should be careful not to flip the segments all willy nilly because that may cause some chipping when one half bangs into the other. It also makes a loud noise that hurts my ears, so between the noise and the chipping hazard, I make sure not to whack the halves together.

I saw the cooks on America’s Test Kitchen use this product countless times, and I always thought it looked so awesome but for some reason I never bothered buying , despite my numerous trips to places like Bed Bath & Beyond. It wasn’t until I started making tea constantly that the light bulb when on and I realized I should use one of my million 20% off coupons to buy a lemon squeezer. I only wish I had bought one sooner. My poor hands would have appreciated it, especially on the days that I came home from work with a paper cut or two. Not only did my hands tire from squeezing lemons by hand, but Mr. Awesome probably didn’t appreciate the shrieking that occurred when the lemon juice ran down my hand and into my paper cuts! But doesn’t that seem like a fair price to pay in exchange for having a wife who reads instruction manuals and IKEA directions for you?

After writing this review and repeatedly referring to this product as a lemon squeezer, my google fu revealed that it’s actually called a lemon press. Whoops! A press sounds so formal, like a starchy shirt having all its wrinkles steamed out. A squeezer sounds so much more fun!

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